Lockdown Latest

Life is full of minor frustrations, and I’ve just found something new to annoy me. I was trying to think of a quotation to lead off with that summed up our current situation, and from the recesses of my memory, I found one. I was going to kick off with “Don’t the days seem lank and long”, which is just about perfect for these straitened times. But I took precautions. I looked it up. I knew it was Gilbert and Sullivan – Princess Ida, as it happens – but had forgotten, or never knew, what came next.

“Oh don’t the days seem lank and long, when all goes right and nothing goes wrong.”

That doesn’t really work, unless you take the second clause to be a reference to how smoothly our on-line games are running. Which would be a bit gloating and naff. So let’s forget, with regret, our quotation.

Although the days do indeed, seem lank and long. Lockdown extends indefinitely onwards – for us, there’s little hope of anything reopening until the social distancing requirements are cut from 2 metres to 1, and while the current stance of the government is to ease lockdown by allowing businesses and shops to open, it’s all dependent on 2 metres remaining in place, which is of no use to us.

We had a County Chair Meeting last week, via Zoom. It was tolerably well-attended, and it was nice to see so many familiar faces again. One (polite) demand that we have quickly considered and agreed to is the ability to run Green-Pointed events on-line. Although there are, of course, concerns about ch*at*ng, we have decided that the benefits to counties outweigh the risk. And on-line ch*at*ng is in some ways easier to keep in check than the real-life version. My own view echoes that of my fellow Board member, Rob Lawy, who said “why spoil things for the 99.9% of honest members that want it for fear that a few might try ch*at*ng?” Why indeed? I have a positive view of the honesty of our members, and am confident that a few bad eggs can be found out. They always are, sooner or later.

The message we, as a Board, tried to get across at the meeting (and, I think, succeeded by and large) was that because of our income model, the EBU is in a parlous state, financially. Before anyone says we should never have gone to Universal Membership in the first place, I would point out that had we not done so, the EBU would have had to fold by 2015 at the latest. It does, however, put us in a bit of a pickle (to say the least) because our income is derived almost entirely from people playing. Cost-cutting, a reduction in Business Rates, a government grant, the furlough scheme etc, etc all help. But if we do not maximise on-line income, it’s all for nothing. At the current rate of movement, by the end of the year our reserves will have fallen to a point beyond which we cannot go, unless everyone pulls together and follows this simple maxim: if you’re playing on-line in something whereby you would be paying UM were you playing in real life, you should be paying UM. County Chairs have agreed to look at this from above in their respective counties. Players can look at their clubs and ask, if they’re affiliated, whether they are paying UM or not. This is not a witch hunt. Nearly all clubs are cooperating fully, bending over backwards to do so. But whilst there remains a small number of clubs that aren’t, this poses a real threat to the EBU’s existence. I know that everybody (well, it seems like everybody, but in reality probably only very few of our members) has some sort of beef with the EBU – we all think that companies we deal with could do better if they would only do what we say. But the EBU needs to survive (I’m not saying that the current form will continue 100% - changes in circumstance lead inevitably to changes in strategy): someone has to run the game in all the ways that most of us never consider on a daily basis.

Having done the message bit, I’d like to end on a more positive note. It is so encouraging to see how many people have thrown themselves into helping others get on-line, both practically and in terms of encouragement. This wretched virus has brought out the best in our membership. I’m normally the first person to hear of any small-mindedness or high-handedness and over the last couple of months I’ve heard nothing. It seems that when I mentioned a while ago that “we’re all in this together” everybody had already worked that one out for themselves, thank you very much, and was already acting accordingly. Well done, everybody.

Ian Payn